(photo: HowardLake)

Mitt Romney’s decision to pick Paul Ryan as his running mate and fully embrace Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program is looking more and more like one of the biggest unforced errors of the campaign. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, voucherizing Medicare is extremely unpopular and Obama holds a huge advantage on the issue of Medicare. From Kaiser Family Foundation:

The poll finds that a majority Americans do not embrace shifting the Medicare program toward a premium support model at this time. Fifty-five percent prefer that Medicare continue as it is today, while 37 percent favor a premium support (or defined contribution) system with a traditional Medicare option of the sort called for by Republican presidential nominee Governor Mitt Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul Ryan. Support for the status quo is stronger among those 55 and older — two-thirds of whom want to keep Medicare as it is — even though Gov. Romney has emphasized in his campaign that this group would not be affected by his proposal. Among adults under 55, half favor the current system and 44 percent favor a defined contribution system.

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The poll also finds that President Obama enjoys a significant edge over Gov. Romney when it comes to whom the public trusts to handle Medicare. Fifty-two percent of the public say President Obama is the candidate they “trust to do a better job” of determining Medicare’s future, compared to 32 percent who pick Gov. Romney. The president’s advantage has increased significantly since July, when 44 percent chose him and 34 percent chose Gov. Romney. However, among Americans 65 and older the gap closes, with 44 percent naming the president and 42 percent picking Gov. Romney.

This is truly remarkable given that less than two years ago Republicans gained an advantage on Medicare by claiming Obamacare would cut the program. The way Republicans chose to actively destroy their political advantage on Medicare over the past two years is almost unbelievable, especially the way they aggressively pushed their unpopular voucher plan when there was zero chance of it being implemented.

At least when Democrats committed political suicide on the issue of health care in 2010, they did it to pass a significant piece of legislation which should be around for decades. Republicans needlessly committed this self-inflicted wound and got nothing to show for it besides meaningless grandstanding.

I still think how Democrats handled the Affordable Care Act was one of the greatest unforced political errors in a generation, but the GOP quixotic push to voucherize Medicare maybe giving it a run for the title.